In about the most inconsequential final score imaginable, the Green Bay Packers concluded their preseason with a 20-19 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
At least some football fans in Wisconsin saw a quality product. The Badgers, in the ballyhooed debut of transfer quarterback Russell Wilson, throttled UNLV a few hours south in Madison.
Green Bay, which finished its preseason with a 3-1 record, put almost no importance on this game. Instead, with nine projected starters watching from the sideline, the emphasis was on getting healthy for a marquee season-opening game against New Orleans in seven days.
Aaron Rodgers played one series, with coach Mike McCarthy getting the desired result. Jump-started by Ryan Grant’s 23-yard run on the first play of the drive, the Packers marched 56 yards for a touchdown. Rodgers was pressured on two of his four attempts, including a third-and-9 completion to Tori Gurley in which Chad Clifton was beaten inside by star linebacker Tamba Hali. On second-and-goal from the 8, Rodgers dumped the ball to tight end Tom Crabtree, who bulled the final couple yards for the score.
“I thought the first-team offense and defense did very well in their short time on the field,” McCarthy said, with the starting defense allowing one first down before a third-down sack by Vic So’oto – not the first noteworthy play by the undrafted linebacker.
Rodgers finished 3-of-4 for 20 yards, running his four-game preseason totals to 37-of-47 (78.7 percent) with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 130.1
“It was nice to get the explosive run from Ryan,” Rodgers said. “I wasn’t really sure what we were going to do on offense. I just thought we might hand it off a couple of times, but we got in the red zone and took some shots. Tori made a nice catch and Crabtree made a nice catch and we were able to finish that drive off.”
The rest of the first half was a relative mismatch, with the Packers quickly going to second- and third-teamers and the Chiefs sticking with their starters other than replacing star quarterback Matt Cassel after he was squashed by beefy Howard Green for a sack on the Chiefs’ fourth possession.
Cassel finished 15-of-17 for 129 yards and a touchdown to Dexter McCluster and backup Tyler Palko added a touchdown to Pro Bowler Dwayne Bowe late in the first half as the Chiefs led 16-7 at halftime.
Green Bay’s touchdown drive covered 56 yards; its other five possessions in the half managed 12 yards and included a safety on a bad shotgun snap by Nick McDonald, Matt Flynn’s interception and a Flynn fumble when he was hit from the blind side. Facing the Chiefs backups and working behind the No. 2 offensive line, Flynn was 1-of-6 for 6 yards and a passer rating of 0.0 in the first half.
The Chiefs played their starters into the fourth quarter but the Packers rallied to take a 20-16 lead behind their defense. Green Bay cut the margin to 16-13 on drives of 1 and 0 yards, with the offense set up by sloppy play from the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles’ fumble was returned 61 yards to the Chiefs’ 26 by Pat Lee and Palko and McCluster botched an exchange, with Cardia Jackson recovering at the Chiefs’ 14.
The Packers then took a 20-16 lead. Again facing the Chiefs’ starting offense, Elijah Joseph blitzed and hit Palko just before he threw in the flat to McCluster. So’oto was there, grabbed it and went 33 yards for a touchdown lead with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Shaky Smithson’s muffed punt gave the Chiefs a field goal early in the fourth quarter, and they were driving toward the go-ahead points late when Anthony Bratton deflected a pass and Jackson intercepted with 4:37 remaining. The Packers, however, couldn’t run out the clock because their line provided absolutely no protection for Harrell on a third-and-3 bootleg.
The defense, however, held on. The Chiefs overcame two holding penalties and two dropped passes to move to the Packers’ 38 with 3 seconds remaining. Ryan Succop missed from 56 yards as time expired.
McCarthy kept 16 of his 80 players on the sideline: receivers Randall Cobb (knees), Donald Driver (ankle), Jordy Nelson (knee) and James Jones (knee), tight end Jermichael Finley (ankle), offensive tackle Chris Campbell (knee), cornerback Charles Woodson (rest), safeties Anthony Levine (concussion) and Nick Collins (rest), linebackers A.J. Hawk (rest), Clay Matthews (rest) and Frank Zombo (scapula), and defensive ends Lawrence Guy (concussion) and Mike Neal (knee) were announced as inactives before the game. Receiver Greg Jennings (rest) and rookie tight end Ryan Taylor (hip) didn’t play, either.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.